Low-tech and unexciting, the ordinary checklist keeps airliners flying. It could do the same for your career.
In a recent article, HR Daily Advisor warned of the top 10 reasons employers get sued. The list contained no giant surprises. Most involved ordinary, day-to-day, careless acts such as misclassifying nonexempt employees as exempt, asking illegal pre-employment questions, and taking disciplinary steps in an undocumented and disorganized way.
Put another way, all were miscues that could have been avoided if only the persons responsible thought through what they were doing and did it “by the numbers.”
Fortunately, there is an answer to the problem of managerial carelessness, though in today’s silicon-coated world, it’s decidedly “old school.”
That answer is the simple checklist.
Though their appearance is humble, checklists have power. They force operations people to consider what they’re doing, and to avoid errors of both commission and omission. Some people bet their lives on checklists … including you, if you ever travel by air. No jetliner ever takes off without the flight crew going through a complete checklist. It’s so important that pilots often clip it to the steering yoke, right in front of them.
Checklists also enforce consistency … the same procedure done the same way in all cases. That’s vital in the HR setting, where even a hint of discrimination in hiring, compensation, or discipline can land you in court with an expensive thud.
HR checklists are best utilized when embedded in a total self-audit program that goes through each key area of the typical HR Manager’s responsibility. One such program is BLR’s just-published HR Audit Checklists.
Housed in a binder, the program contains several packets of extensive checklists, each covering one of the following areas:
HR Administration (including communications, handbook content, and recordkeeping)
Health and Safety (including OSHA responsibilities)
Benefits and Leave (including health cost containment, COBRA, FMLA, workers’ compensation, and several areas of leave)
Compensation (payroll and the all-important provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act)
Staffing and Training (including Equal Employment Opportunity considerations in recruiting and hiring)
Performance and Termination (appraisals, discipline, and termination)
Anatomy of a Checklist Packet
Because the items on checklists may make little sense unless viewed in context, each packet also contains a background summary of the key laws and issues revolving around that topic. Let’s take the packet on Employee Handbooks in the HR Management section as an example.
Before doing the checklist, the reader is informed on how a sloppily-written handbook can actually form unintended contracts with employees that are enforceable in court. A poorly drawn book can even nullify the key concept of employment-at-will that allows us to manage our businesses efficiently. Here are three items from the checklist designed to help you keep this from happening:
* Have you requested your attorney to review your handbook?
* Do you reserve the right to unilaterally alter your handbook?
* Do you require employees to [acknowledge] that employment is at-will?
Yes  No
Say “yes” to these questions and you’ve skirted one of the most dangerous areas in the employee-employer relationship. But would you have thought of asking them without the prodding of a checklist?
All checklists, by the way, are in a reproducible format, so you can provide them to everyone who needs them, or even post them.
If you have never done a thorough audit of the key HR areas above, you may want to review this new program. It’s not a jetliner situation. Your life is not at stake. But follow a checklist, avoid a mistake, and you could keep your career flying high.
To order the HR Audit Checklists at No-Risk, Click Here.